- Also known as
Edward (Le) Davis
primary name: Davis, Edward
other name: Le Davis, Edward
- individual; dealer/auction house; printmaker; British; Male
- Life dates
- 1671 active-1698 died
- Davies was of Welsh origin, and was apprenticed to Loggan. Vertue was informed by John Sturt that Loggan's wife 'would have him follow her in a livery and other servile offices, which he refus'd to do, & ran away to France, where he became acquainted with paintings & other parts of arts by which he gathered a good fortune at his return & became a great dealer in pictures' (II 29). This is corroborated by Mariette ('Abécédario' II 67 and 192-3), who records two plates he made for the Parisian publisher, François Chauveau, and says that after his return to London he abandoned engraving to become a picture dealer. It was in France that he added 'Le' to his name, which he kept using after his return to London.
Very few of Davis's plates are dated, but the chronology of his life can be worked out thanks to the listing of his work given by Maxime Préaud in the Inventaire of the Bibliothèque Nationale (vol.X 1989). This has fifty-three plates, and is probably complete so far as his French work is concerned, for it includes information taken from the 1676 inventory of Chauveau's stock. But Davis's British plates need much further work, the matter being complicated by the fact that quite a few anonymous portraits of the period appear to be by him.
Davis's French plates bear dates between 1671 and 1674; he was back in England in 1674, when he makes the first of numerous appearances as 'Davys graver' in the diary of Robert Hooke. In 1675 he engraved the frontipiece for S.Monteage's 'Debtor and Creditor'. This places his apprenticeship to Loggan at the end of the 1660s, and his birth somewhere in the early 1640s. The fact that he became a picture dealer did not preclude him from engraving. He made an outsize (590 x 460mm) oval bust of James as Duke of York, and a curious print after Frans Hals of 'The mountebank doctor and his merry Andrew' (BMSat 1145).
Vertue notes about his commercial activities: 'Mr Davis sale, a picture dealer and ingraver, he had yearly sales often' (V 55). Some of these can be traced. The catalogue of an auction of 23 November 1691 that he conducted jointly with Edward Millington is in the British Library (1402 g.1/105); it consisted of paintings from the collections of Cardinal Antonio Barberini (1607-71) and Sir James Palmer (d.1657). Other sales of Barberini and Palmer paintings had been held in 1688-9 at an auction house in St Albans Street, which must have been Davis's address. If so further sales can be traced through advertisements in the London Gazette from 29 November 1686 until 1691. He drew up his will on 10 March 1698 (AM/PW/1698/015), which shows that he had greatly prospered. It may be assumed that his dealing activities often took him back to France, and that much of his activity lay in importing canvases for the English market.
Mariette concludes his note on Davis by saying that he could have become a good engraver for he knew how to cut copper well. The implication is that he never lived up to his capabilities, and this seems fair. He is now forgotten, although in his day was seen as the fourth leading British engraver after Loggan, White and Vandrebanc.
(Supplementary information from Richard Stephens, 2010)
The rate books confirm that he lived in St.Albans Street from at least 1677 (the earliest rate book I could find) to 1697. The 1698 book is missing but in 1699 the occupant was his widow. Davis lived on the east side of the street, on the opposite side to the St Albans Tavern. A near neighbour on St Albans Street was John Baptist Gaspars. Davis's collection of pictures was advertised to be sold on 6 June 1698 (London Gazette, 30 May 1698) and "the House will be to be Lett, either Furnished or Unfurnished". The pictures were also advertised for sale on 26 December 1698 (London Gazette, 19 December 1698), but the sale was put off to 5 January 1699 "at the request of some Gentlemen, who could not attend in the Christmas-week" (London Gazette, 31 December 1698).
Davis held picture sales at his St Albans Street house from 1686 to 1689 and 1693, 1694, 1697 and 1698; his widow continued using it for sales in 1699 and 1700. Davis also held sales at the sign of the Star, "near the Back Stairs of the House of Lords, leading down to the waterside in the Palace Yard" (London Gazette, 10 December 1694) from 1694 to 1696. With Edward Millington, in 1691 Davis held a sale in the house to the right of the stairs going into the House of Lords (which was (slightly later I think) Leonard Knyff's house) of the collections of Cardinal Antonio Barberini (1607-1681) and Sir James Palmer (d.1657), parts of whose collections Davis had begun to sell at St Albans Street in 1688 and 1689. The 1691 sale catalogue states that the pictures "are brought from the Auction-house in St.Albans-street." His will is dated March 1697, hence the assumed year of his death.
- DNB (under Le Davis)
Antony Griffiths, 'The Print in Stuart Britain' 1998, p.208
Information from Richard Stephens, 2010, 2011